I have a job. Two actually. They are both for different governments (I’m not telling you which, but for this purpose, think county and city) and entail a wide range of duties. Last week, one of those duties was organizing the county’s 100th anniversary celebrations. As is usually the case, I’d been planning this for months in advance with no input from my board up until the week prior when, all of a sudden, I’m treated to seven different people telling me seven different things that absolutely must be present in the program. Add to that making arrangements for the Queen’s representative who, unfortunately for me, decided to accept an invitation that was extended purely on the grounds of protocol, and you may appreciate why I was unnoticeably absent last week.
Something you must understand about the place that I work in is that it’s more than just a little bit country. This slice of enlightenment is grade two education, I lost these fingers in a hay baler, four names in the phonebook: Country. As this is the case I have been exposed to the wholesale slaughter of the English language for the entire nine years that I’ve been in the profession. Something as simple as pronouncing the “v” in “culvert” sentence structure or the concept of punctuation seems to be completely beyond the grasp of most people. I suppose that’s why whenever mistakes appear on Pajiba (of which I have committed more than a few) and the Grammar Nazis, Spelling Stalins and Punctuation Pharos get all worked up; I’m able to pretty much just ignore it. You see I have one board member who routinely makes such a mess of pronunciation that I have to perform a meditation exercise at the same point in every meeting once a month. In his defense, he’s one of the most dedicated and generous elected officials I’ve ever met but the guy just cannot speak. He’s been on the board for over thirty years and, for thirty years, he’s mispronounced the same word every meeting. This means, even after being corrected over and over, he’s done it a minimum of 360 times.
As a part of my duties I’m required to take the minutes of all meetings and then submit them to the board at the subsequent meeting for approval before they become public domain. One of his duties is to ask, “Are there any errors or omissions to these minutes?” It’s a question that allows the other board members to make changes or corrections to my interpretation of events. The problem is that every single time he pronounces the phrase, “Are there any errors or ADmissions to these minutes?” and it drives me totally nuts. It’s a small thing but I have to turn off my ears lest I say something I will regret. “What are we charging for admission, Your Worship? Are we going to make people apply on a first come, first serve basis? Perhaps we should just make it general in nature.” Fuck me! It makes me want to wrap my hands around his throat and scream in his face until I feel his larynx crumple like aluminum can under my terrible embrace.
Now, for the 100th anniversary I had to write three different speeches for three different people, all of whom have a history of the mispronunciation of words containing more than two syllables. In this situation you would usually try and keep these things simple but there does have to be some bigger and more complicated wording to make it worthy of the ceremony. I wrote the speeches and gave them to their respective officials for perusal and then I spent ten minutes convincing one of the officials that the word was, in fact, exponential and not expotential. He ended up mispronouncing it anyway.
On the big day His Worship takes to the podium with the speech I wrote to regale a few hundred people. He works his way through it only mangling a few words that really don’t affect the context of the speech. I should mention that the speech was one of ass kissing the bigger government authority for all the help (monetarily and otherwise) that we have received over the years and how happy we are to be a part of it all. I’m feeling relaxed, calm, and maintaining a façade of interest as I’m at the head table and must appear enraptured by the platitudes which I’ve already read twenty times. Then he gets to the last line that reads, “…and we are proud to have been a part of making the municipality one of the most affluent in the Province today.” Except he says: “…and we are proud to have been a part of making the municipality one of the most effluent in the Province today.” Way to go boss, you just told Big Brother we think he’s shit.
How about you lot? Is there that one person or people that constantly mispronounce words that drive you batty? Maybe you have a horror story similar to my own. Or maybe there’s just one word that nobody seems to get right and sends you off of the deep end.